‘Infinite Country’ by Patricia Engel – A Family Trapped between the United States and Colombia

 

‘Infinite Country’ by Patricia Engel  (2021) – 191 pages

 

‘Infinite Country’ is a novel of a family from Colombia coming to the United States to make a new life for themselves. Over the years there have been many novels of families immigrating to the United States, and these books have usually been upbeat, optimistic, and hopeful. However ‘Infinite Country’ is a tragic story about a family torn apart by United States harsh attitudes and cruel policies. This family would have been much better off staying in Bogota despite Colombia’s ongoing problems. Colombia is troubled, but the United States may be even more troubled.

Last year I read Phil Klay’s ‘Missionaries’ about the disastrous effects of the United States inserting itself into the Colombian situation. Patricia Engel does not cover that part of the story but instead paints a vivid picture of a family trapped between Colombia and the United States.

When you get to the United States, nobody will understand you. I don’t mean just the language. It’s a country of strangers. It will be another kind of sentence. But one that as an immigrant you can’t escape.”

Colombians Mauro and Elena have three children named Karina, Nando, and Talia. Nando and Talia were born in the United States and are thus United States citizens. The father Mauro gets kicked out of the United States and cannot return. Elena decides to send her youngest Talia, a toddler, back to Colombia.

Now Talia is 15, and she gets into trouble. Talia is sentenced to a religious reform school after pouring a pot of hot cooking oil on the head of a guy who had used that same hot cooking oil to scald and murder a stray cat.

Bogota, Colombia

Talia escapes from the reform school and goes on the run, trying to get to Bogota and her father so she can catch a flight to the United States and her mother and the rest of her family. She has the following dialogue with Aguja who is a young guy who gives her a ride on his motorcycle.

I have a flight to catch.”

Where to?”

The United States.”

Why?”

My mother lives there with my brother and sister. They’re waiting for me.”

Aren’t you afraid?”

Of what?”

Over there people walk into schools and buildings with weapons and kill everyone. They are not even guerrilla or paramilitary. Just regular people. What are you going to do when you’re out shopping and some gringo points a machine gun at your forehead?”

I don’t think it’s any worse than here. Just different.”

‘Infinite Country’ is the intense story of one family’s plight stuck between two nations, told in short sharp sentences.

 

Grade:    B+

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